Victoria Pavlov will be teaching at Photoshop World Las Vegas, taking place August 21-23, so register now to come see her in person!

Five Best Practices You Need To Have In Your Pocket When Working With Models

I have been working very closely with models for the past 15 years. During these years I had a lot of bumps in the road. I implemented these five best practices in my studio, which made my model photography workflow much easier. I respect my time, so I don’t like wasting it on something that needs to be fixed if I can easily avoid it before or during my session.

1. Tell A Story

Always work with a model who can tell a story. We are not shooting just because we have nothing else to do. We are shooting because this is a job or we love shooting in our free time. Our shooting time is our “intellectual investment.” Like with any other investment, we expect a positive return from our “intellectual investment.” Choosing the right model for your sessions is a critical decision you need to make. If you take your photography seriously, this is what you should do.

When I first started in my studio and opened my first casting call, 9 out of 10 models who responded to my casting call had the same attitude. “I am beautiful. I think this is all photographers are looking for, so I am good for your casting call.” I was very frustrated because this is not what I was looking for. I am always looking for a model who can tell a story with her eyes, facial expression, and pose. I am looking for a model who can give me different expressions in every single frame or two.

It took about 4-5 months for me to find the circle of models who were on the same page of what photography was about. It’s about storytelling. That’s it. I don’t care how beautiful my “subject” is. I care about storytelling.

Right now, in the 21st century, we are not impressed by anyone with good lighting. If you are a professional photographer, people expect you to have it. People are also expecting you to tell a story with the image. Every single image you capture should tell a story because only this will connect you to your audience. Only this will make your audience wait in anticipation for your next post, exhibit, or update.

2. Invest In Your Session

Trust professionals. I am not talking about photography equipment when I say “invest” here.

Even if you shoot with a model for TF (Trade For), always hire a makeup and hair stylist. Some makeup and hair stylists are building or updating their portfolios, and they are looking for photographers for TF sessions as well.

Never try to do makeup or hair by yourself or trust your model to do it. Why? Models usually are not professional makeup or hairstylists. If they do it by themselves, you will end up with the wrong makeup. I can assure you that your model will apply the makeup that she likes the most and the worst part is, you will spend a lot of time trying to fix it in post-production later because this is not what you were looking for.

Remember that makeup and hair are part of the storytelling.

3. Always Keep Someone Next To You During Your Photo Session

When we shoot, usually we are paying attention to model’s poses, or expression and we are not paying attention to the all the “small” details such as flying hair, wrinkles on their outfit, or the part of the makeup that needs to be refreshed. If someone is next to you during your photo session, they will be paying attention to all these details. You will significantly bring down your post-production time because you will not be retouching all the things which could easily be fixed during the session.

NEVER say, “I can fix it in Photoshop later, right?” Never fix in Photoshop anything that could be fixed during the session in camera. You can fix flying hair in a second during the session, but you will spend a lot of time fixing the same flying hair in Photoshop later because you will need to fix the same flying hair over and over in every single image you need to deliver. 

4: Get Everything Ready Before Your Session

If you have a model in your studio, that means you have some ideas you want to bring to life. A storytelling session includes hair, makeup, and wardrobe as well. We talked about makeup and hair above. Now it’s time to talk about wardrobe.

Trust your vision. Before the session, put together the outfit you want to shoot with. You can rent a unique outfit (this is something that is not always inexpensive, but sometimes it’s necessary), or you can buy the entire outfit. From where? Goodwill, eBay, Amazon. Sometimes you can put together a very impressive outfit for as little as $15. The best part is you can build your own wardrobe collection month by month. Never trust your model to bring the wardrobe. The chances are you’ll get random looks that may not represent your vision.

5. Build Your Circle

Build a circle of artistic people who love creating art and telling stories. Stay connected with all the people you worked with and who share the same “storytelling” vision. Finding people who share the same vision as yours is not too easy. So if you find them, stay connected, create “storytelling” images all the time. For fun, for work, for training, for discovering something new. It doesn’t matter, just create.

One More Thing: Never Get Stuck In A Box

Taking pictures using your camera is a form of “creating art.” So you don’t have to be stuck in a box only with your photography. Did you capture an image you love? That’s great! After that, try to paint it (even if you have never painted before, you can create a very unique and beautiful painting in Photoshop using my “Painting for Photographers” technique.

Try compositing images together to create something different. Be creative. Transform your photography art into a painting or compositing art.

You can see more of Victoria’s work at PavlovPhotography.com, and keep up with her on Instagram, Twitter, Behance, Facebook, and YouTube.

Victoria will be teaching at Photoshop World Las Vegas, taking place August 21-23, so register now to see her in person!

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